Ragweed and poison ivy – Weeding out the differences

Ragweed and poison ivy – Weeding out the differences

Ragweed and poison ivy are two different plants that lead to very distinct reactions. For instance, ragweed affects only those who are allergic to its pollen, while poison ivy triggers skin irritation in most people who come into contact with it.


Ragweed (Ambrosia) can be found in many regions of Quebec, particularly in urban settings. Every year, its pollen affects 10% of Quebecers, causing allergic rhinitis, commonly referred to as hay fever. This ailment involves a series of symptoms, such as runny nose, sinus congestion, fits of sneezing, red, swollen and weepy eyes, respiratory problems, coughing and asthma. However, ragweed does not pose a threat when it comes into contact with the skin.

Certain precautions can be taken to reduce symptoms:

  • Practise outdoors activities at the end of the day, when the concentration of pollen in the air is lower;
  • Use an air conditioner or air filter in your home;
  • Take medications such as antihistamines and decongestants.

Poison ivy

Poison ivy (Rhus radicans) grows near wooded areas. Every part of the plant can cause skin irritation and itchiness (allergic dermatitis) as a result of direct or indirect (via objects, clothing or pets) contact. Symptoms generally appear two days after contact with the weed and vary in intensity from one person to the next. Contrary to popular belief, however, the allergy does not return every season for seven years!

If you have been infected with poison ivy, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. Once the rash appears, you should keep skin moist using alkaline solutions. In any event, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor or pharmacist. They can recommend an appropriate treatment.

In-store health services

Your pharmacist has the necessary knowledge and experience to advise you on a wide range of health issues. Always feel free to consult him or her.  

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